The human desire to capture a person's likeness in a painting or drawing is reflected in the considerable number of portraits found in museums. However, a large, framed portrait is not easily portable. Before photography, portrait miniatures, such as those in this exhibition, conveniently kept images of loved ones close at hand. So popular were miniatures that artists specialized in the genre and well-known painters, such as Sir Henry Raeburn, produced them as well.
Spanning the 16th-19th centuries, Masterworks in Miniature highlights works of Britain's greatest miniaturists from the Starr Collection of Miniatures, collected by Mr. and Mrs. John W. Starr. One of the earliest English miniaturists is represented by Nicholas Hilliard (above), who was Queen Elizabeth I's exclusive miniaturist. Isaac Oliver's work reflects the influence of Hilliard's technique of graphic, colorful representation, while Samuel Cooper and his apprentice Ozias Humphry emulated the Flemish style of dramatic modeling. Jean-Etienne Liotard's portrait of a man depicts the artist's attention to his sitter's attire which is echoed in his detailed larger works, such as A Frankish Woman and Her Servant which can be seen in the Museum's European galleries (P18). Also included are three portraits by notable miniaturist John Smart and portraits from the last half of the 18th century through the early-19th century.